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Arab American Institute's Gibran Gala to honor M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr

posted on: Apr 15, 2016

By Keith Loria

Fairfax Times

Jamie Farr, best known for his success in M*A*S*H, will be honored by the American Arab Foundation.
Millions of people around the world recognize Jamie Farr as the lovable, often crazy Corporal Maxwell Klinger from one of the most successful TV series of all time—“M*A*S*H.”

“Originally, the show didn’t do well and was going to get cancelled but it was saved and the next year we became part of the Saturday night lineup, and it became the greatest night in the history of television,” Farr said. “The show was always accepted critically but the audience needed to find it.”

During the show’s 11-year run, Klinger’s escapades in trying to get out of the Army, most notably his wearing of dresses on the show, made the Lebanese serviceman from Toledo a fan-favorite.

Those traits of his character—being Lebanese and from Toledo—were actually taken from Farr’s real life, and Klinger represented one of the earliest positive, three-dimensional depictions of an Arab American in popular media.

“The first year, I was brought in as a day player and my character was supposed to be just for the one episode,” he said. “I always say I came for one day but stayed for 11 years.”

Reflecting back at the show’s success, Farr credits the writers, directors and actors as being the best in the business.

“The chemistry was so wonderful,” he said. “You always hope for good writing and that you cast it right, and everything about the show was just magic.”

These days, Farr lives in California with his wife and plays a lot of golf. He also has been delving more into the theater world, and is planning a road tour for the play, “Tuesdays With Morrie.”

“It’s such a terrific play,” Farr said. “I think the intimacy of the two characters from the book holds up better than the movie because there’s such a dynamic between them.”

On April 19, Farr will be honored with the Special Recognition Award at the 2016 Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards Gala. Launched in 1999 by the Arab American Institute Foundation, the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards is a fundraiser with proceeds supporting the organization’s many projects—including scholarships, leadership training, and educational programs.

“I am honored and moved by this. For me to be in the cast of those who have been honored in the past is quite an achievement and accomplishment,” Farr said. “The one thing I am extremely proud of is that my parents—who unfortunately are not with me anymore—would be real excited.”

Farr has long been known to advance Kahlil Gibran’s ideals of diversity, acceptance, and unity, and the actor’s sense of humor and dedication to public service has brought laughter and warmth into the households of millions of Americans.

In addition to Farr’s many notable on-screen performances, he’s also known for his exemplary philanthropic work in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, including raising more than $8 million for children’s charities through his golf tournament.

Additionally, pride in his ethnic identity and dedication to elevating the Arab American community, made him an obvious choice for the honor.

“We support Arab Americans running for office and getting into public service. The issue of recognizing those in our community who have done extraordinary work and those in the broader community who have done extraordinary work became something we decided to focus on,” Dr. James Zogby, president and co-founder of the Arab American Institute, said. “The point is to elevate the profile of the community through the people we honor and recognize values to which we aspire.”

Others that will be honored at the gala are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Unite Lebanon Youth Project and The Honorable Suzanne Sareini.

“Every year we honor someone for public service and Suzanne has made a real impact in her community through more than two decades of public service,” Dr. Zogby said.